Your new project has a wide range of genre-bending material. Did you pioneer this single-handedly, or did the Uccello ensemble help curate this too?
The early arrangements for Uccello, Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, and Jimi Hendrix’s Machine Gun, were my choices and later, the bigband treatment of the cello ensemble was in collaboration with my friend, composer David Sanford. The idea is simple: cellos are chameleon-like, our instrument can emulate any instrument and, of course, the human voice, in all shapes. We begin with a rich palette of overtones and then deconstruct and strip them away to create the various effects of electric guitar, drum set, saxophone, etc. Machine Gun is a good example of a wide range of effects all created by eight celli. There is some freedom within the ensemble to make each part one’s own. The players were all my students and they have gone on to impressive careers of their own.
Along with my work with Uccello, a major inspiration and collaborator is pianist Christopher O’Riley. He has arranged a wide range of music for solo piano and now cello/piano. It is always a revelation to develop the cello parts even further to get to the heart of each idiosyncratic voice, from Thom Yorke to the electric guitar of John McLaughlin.
And finally, there are the solo cello arrangements, including a brilliant one by composer Luna Pearl Woolf that turns the Beatles’ Helter Skelter into a one-man band, and my own take on Jimi Hendrix’s Star-Spangled Banner from Woodstock 50 years ago.